‘Green’ drive leaves thousands of homes riddled with damp and mould after contractors bodged the insulation, double glazing and boiler repair work
- Contractors bodged work so badly that sodden walls are sprouting mushrooms
- The builders have now gone bust, putting ministers under pressure to pay
- Campaigners fear that as many as a million homes renovated under the ‘Green Deal’ might be affected
Families are stranded in damp and mouldy properties because of a state-backed green energy scheme.
Thousands of low-income households were offered free insulation, double glazing and a boiler in a drive to cut greenhouse gases.
But contractors bodged the work so badly that sodden walls are sprouting mushrooms. The builders have now gone bust, putting ministers under pressure to pay for repairs to the 387 homes in Preston.
Campaigners fear that as many as a million homes renovated under the ‘Green Deal’ might be affected.
Afsha Hussain said her house in next to worthless (box), she lives in Fishwick area of Preston
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Residents in Preston’s Fishwick estate were offered the work by door-to-door salesmen employed by the big energy companies, which were under pressure to meet energy efficiency targets.
In 2013 entire rows of terraced houses were swathed in several inches of polystyrene insulation topped with pebble-dash rendering.
Occupants were soon complaining of severe damp in their front rooms and surveyors said the work had been bungled. Rainwater was seeping in through gaps before becoming trapped in the brickwork.
My house is next to worthless
Afsha Hussain signed up to the Green Deal on the promise of cheaper energy bills –instead they have doubled.
And her terraced property in Preston has been made almost worthless through damp that she blames on botched external insulation fitted under the scheme.
‘It’s impossible to warm the house up now, it’s so damp,’ said the customer service adviser. ‘I have to have the heating on all the time.
‘I was paying £75 a month for my energy bills, now it’s more like £135 a month.’
‘Who would want to buy the house now? It was valued at £80,000, now it’s not even worth a tenth of that.’
Miss Hussain, 40, said every room was mouldy and she feared for her health.
Some owners have been quoted £40,000 to repair the damage to homes worth £90,000.
In 2014, the company behind the main insulation scheme, InterGen, was ordered by energy regulator Ofgem to repair 62 homes at a cost of around £1.5million. But in a statement yesterday, Ofgem conceded it had ‘since become apparent that the problems with the work are more widespread’.
‘Unfortunately at the time of our settlement with InterGen, we were only aware of problems with 62 houses – so the agreed settlement with InterGen only required them to resolve these complaints and did not include any further issues that might arise,’ it said. It said it was ‘still looking at other options’ to assist Preston residents whose homes had been blighted.
Preston council, which has been working to help residents despite, it says, having no legal liability, said it had exhausted all avenues and only the Government could help.
Sir Mark Hendrick, who is the city’s Labour MP, highlighted the issue during an adjournment debate in the House of Commons last month. He said it ‘had been an absolute tragedy for those living in those 387 houses, who have been trying to put up with substandard housing and great inconvenience’.
In response, energy minister Claire Perry branded the saga evidence of a ‘strong failure’ by the Labour government which introduced the Green Deal. She promised to work on a solution.
More than eight million homes have been insulated over the past 20 years under a range of government-backed schemes to cut carbon emissions and reduce bills. Many have had cavity wall insulation retrofitted, rather than externally as was done in Fishwick.
But experts last year warned as many as 1.5million of these properties had been blighted by botched work, causing dampness and crumbling plaster. The insulation industry body said this claim was ‘wildly inaccurate’.
A spokesman for the Government, which scrapped the Green Deal in 2015, said: ‘Energy-efficiency measures, including insulation, need to be installed to a high standard for the benefits to be realised, including cheaper energy bills and warmer homes.’
The spokesman said ministers had brought in a new quality mark and a requirement for guarantees to be provided.
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